Rafi reigns

With a song for every emotion, Mohammed Rafi’s voice continues to bind people across generations and geographies

Published - July 28, 2017 04:04 pm IST

TIMELESS APPEAL Mohammad Rafi (24 December 1924-31 July 1980)

TIMELESS APPEAL Mohammad Rafi (24 December 1924-31 July 1980)

For millions, it was a heart breaking day when legendary singer Mohammed Rafi departed from this world. Apart from grief, what perturbed them was the painful prospect that their beloved artiste would be heard no more. But how wrong they were! Yes, of course, Mohammed Rafi offered no new albums but after his demise, Rafi Sahab was present everywhere; in fact, even more than ever before!

So what is the reason for this Rafi mania that shows no sign of abatement even after almost four decades and Rafi’s voice stamps its indelible mark on every nook and corner of the globe? Indeed what is the secret behind Rafi’s incredible popularity that continues to soar in spite of a generational change in taste, technology and culture? And pray what can explain the reasons as to why Rafi remains the most revered and most heard artist on internet and why from Birmingham to Banswara and Jerusalem to Jhumri Talaiyya, his birth and death anniversaries inspire several thousand musical tributes on stage, radio and television?

Music maestro Khayyam’s worthy opinion perhaps provides a rational answer to this riddle. In an informal chat recently, he opined the mass adoration stems from “wholesome charm of Rafi’s golden voice”.



Khayyam said the tonal quality of most singers exhausts people after a certain period of listening but that is not so in Rafi’s case. The veteran composer asserts “Rafi’s sunshine voice was a blessing to music and poetry since he brought alive the character with an ideal expression that stays in soul’s memory forever.”

While Khayyam signifies Rafi’s singing was emotionally gratifying, music director Pyarelal ascribes the universal esteem to his divine prowess. Pyarelal informs music experts have long contended “Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey as great singers but they have always bracketed Rafi Sahab in a superior category as ‘God’s Own Voice’.” Pyarelal explains, “Rafi Sahab’s expression came from the soul and not the throat as he was a human being par excellence, a Farishta (Divine Spirit).” Perhaps, Pyarelal is not wrong since just as saints provide vision and succour to weary souls, Rafi’s soulful renditions have endowed listeners around the globe with hope, strength, happiness and contentment.

Celestial spectacle

It is a viewpoint shared by actor–director Manoj Kumar too. Recounting an anecdote when he took Rafi Sahab to a discourse of Sathya Sai Baba (of Puttaparthi) on the request of the spiritual Guru himself, Kumar elaborates he was privy to a celestial spectacle that is still vivid in his memory. As Rafi Sahab sang an impromptu bhajan on public request, “Sathya Sai Baba pointed out to me the ethereal aura of light that enveloped the humble singer’s body while he sang in a meditative trance.” The veteran says “Baba told me he had requested for Rafi Sahab as he was God’s own soul” and confesses Rafi Sahab always had a heart warming smile and a sublime aura of serenity that was unique to his persona alone.

These different perspectives do help clarify why Rafi magic endures beyond boundaries and will not fade till eternity. Yes, whenever saints and visionaries come upon this earth, they stamp their greatness with their exemplary creativity, simplicity, honesty and compassion. Analyse Rafi and we find a musical saint without trappings of power, fame, money and manipulations of the glamour world and it is no wonder why everyone from Manmohan Desai to Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari to Rishi Kapoor called him the “Voice of God”. Unlike any other recorded human voice, male or female, Rafi was endowed with an incredible texture, finesse and range that are akin to marvels of nature.

If it has the softness of a feather, the purity of dew drops, the force of thunder, it is also imbued with the intoxication of the spring air and the brightness of the sun. Blessed with soothing clarity of the moonlight to the verve and dazzle of lightening, it had an amazing ability to scale dizzying heights of passion just as effortlessly as it could conquer the oceanic depths of solemnity. That is why we find that in each musical creation, there is Rafi and yet no Rafi! The harmony of his skill and voice makes the character and emotion come alive. And it is this intense yet delicate fusion within the musical and poetical tapestry that makes Rafi tower above all singers. Like a sage who transcends meditation, Rafi becomes the song and continues to stay alive as Emperor of melody!

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